Writer. Adventurer. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a series of steampunk novels and short stories.
I’ll be the first to admit that I love reading how-to books. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine. Since I have gotten serious about this writing gig, I’ve read 30+ books on how to write better, faster, and more. If you’re considering reading one, drop me a line. I can probably let you know if it is worthwhile or not.
How-to-write books aren’t good or bad on their own. It depends what you are trying to get out of one of them. Autobiographies by successful authors will tell you how they got there, but might not be relevant today. Books on craft might hone your skills, but not give you the advise on getting an agent or marketing. How to make millions on Amazon
I enjoyed “On Writing,” Stephen King’s autobiographical take on being an author, but I would not suggest it as a guideline for how to be a successful writer in the 21st century. Too many things have changed since he made the big time. Terry Brooks and Orson Scott Card have pseudo-autobiographical books on writing too, and while they’re entertaining, I feel they’re also not so useful for today’s aspiring authors.
Jessica Page Morrell’s book “Thanks But This Isn’t for Us” would be my recommendation for best book on craft and polishing up your manuscript. Saggy middle? Two-dimensional characters? Cliques running rampant? She has some pointers that can help you find a solution as well as aid you in finding other problems detracting from your WIP.
This isn’t a book about false promises or cheery u-rah-rahs. This book will never claim that anyone can write a best seller or become a billionaire just by typing away, or even that writing is the greatest joy, because after all we cannot forget about dancing, chocolate, and sex. Rather, it’s written by a Demon of Harsh Reality and meant as a hefty dose of reality along with encouragement to keep trying, to keep learning. Because writing is a craft and it can be learned. And like any craft, we need to recognize our weaknesses before we can succeed, and often the period of mastery is proceeded by some truly awful attempts.
The other book I would recommend for getting your book in front of readers other than your friends and family is “2,000 to 10,000: How to Write Faster, Write Better, and Write More of What You Love” by Rachel Aaron. It started off as a blog post “How I Went from Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day.” She points out three revolutionary ideas (okay, not revolutionary, but it wasn’t obvious enough for me to come up with on my own) on how to significantly improve your word count without hiring a ghost writer.
But the truth was there was no excuse. I had to find a way to boost my word count, and with months of 2k a day dragging me down, I had to do it fast. So I got scientific. I gathered data and tried experiments, and ultimately ended up boosting my word count to heights far beyond what I’d thought was possible, and I did it while making my writing better than ever before.
But mostly, I would tell you to put the book down and get your own words on the page. That will be the greatest way to succeed. One. Word. At. A. Time. ;)